Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam, said, "A sign of one's excellence in his Islam, is ignoring what does not concern him." [Related by Ahmad, Malik & At-Tirmidhi]
The Status of this Hadith
Ibn Rajab said, "This hadith is a basic and an important source of good behavior in Islam." Muhammad ibn Zayd, a great scholar of the Maliki Madhhab, said, "Four ahadith comprise a perfect code of conduct. One of them is, 'Whoever believes in Allah and His Messenger should say that which is useful or keep silent.' Another is when the Prophet said to the man who sought his advice, 'Avoid getting angry.' A third is, 'The believer loves for his (believing) brother what he loves for himself.' The fourth is the above hadith."
A Sign of Excellence in Islam
A sign of one's excellence in the religion, is his ignoring what does not concern him, including all things said or done. The Muslim should only participate in what concerns him, such as anything that is his property, right, obligation or under his control. To be concerned with something entails preserving and taking care of this thing that one is allowed to be concerned with.
As for the matters that do not concern one, they are in abundance. Usually, when a person tries to interfere in such matters that do not concern him, the tool frequently used for this is the tongue. Muslims are ordered to utter only good words, for Allah said, "Not a word he (man) utters, but there is a watcher by him ready (to record it)." [Al-Qur'an 50:18]
Many people ignore the fact that in Islam, words are considered actions. Such people care not to preserve their tongues from uttering evil or nonsense. Mu'adh ibn Jabal did not know the importance of discretion in the words one utters, so he asked the Prophet, "Are we going to be held responsible for what we say?" The Prophet answered, "May your mother lose you! What else will lead people to be dragged in the Fire on their faces, but the result of what they utter with their tongues." [Irwa' al-Ghalil]
An-Nawawi said in his book, Riyadh as-Salihin, "Know that everyone should only talk about what might lead to benefit. When talking and being silent are equal in benefit, the Sunnah is to be silent. This is because to be talkative will usually lead to uttering evil, even if it starts with seemingly harmless words. One should always be on the safe side, a state that is indeed desired." When a person utters only good words, he gains respect in his community. Likewise, if he is talkative and nosy, disrespect and a bad reputation are the result.
This hadith indicates that ignoring what does not concern one, is a sign of his excellence in the religion. Being successful in working the righteous deeds and gaining an increase in the number of good deeds are all results of this better behavior. The number of sins will also decrease if one protects his tongue from uttering evil. Abu Hurayrah said, "If you improve your Islam, then every good deed you work will increase (and will be multiplied) by ten folds to seven hundred times in reward. On the other hand, each sin is recorded according to its weight, until one meets Allah, the Exalted One." [Muslim]
Ignoring What Does Not Concern You
The only way to know right from wrong is through the Islamic Shari'ah (Law). What one wishes and desires do not count in this regard. The Prophet has considered the one who ignores what does not concern him to be an excellent Muslim. Therefore, Islam alone must be consulted to define what does or does not concern a Muslim. Because many Muslims do not depend on the Shari'ah to define what they can or cannot participate in, they sometimes abandon their obligations or what they are supposed to do or say, thinking that this is not of their concern. They sometimes defy the rules of the religion by not advising their Muslim brothers, thinking that this also is not of their concern. Or, they indulge in what does not concern them, thinking that this is their concern. To get out of this confusion, one should always consult the Shari'ah to know what he is supposed to do or say.
Benefits from the Hadith
- It encourages Muslims to use the time in a manner that brings about their benefit in this life and in the Hereafter;
- Muslims should always be concerned with what is beneficial and constructive, and should avoid what does not bring about benefit and what does not preserve the honor;
- It also encourages Muslims to strive hard to discipline their behavior, and to reject and abandon sins, dishonor and what brings about disrespect; and
- It ordains avoiding interfering with other people's affairs, for unwarranted interference with other people's business causes divisions and hatred among Muslims.